George Will, John M. Keynes, and Totalitarian Eugenics
In a touching but revealing column, conservative pundit and widely syndicated columnist George Will speaks to his son celebrating his 40th birthday while still handicapped by Down syndrome. Jon, as George describes him, was born at a time when leaving a child at a hospital was "still considered an acceptable choice for parents who might prefer to institutionalize or put up for adoption children thought to have necessarily bleak futures."
Within the age of nanny-state government, apathy toward child abandonment is both financed and encouraged by faceless bureaucrats waiting in the wings to institutionalize in a bare room (one which meets a litany of erroneous regulations, of course) those judged unacceptable for the public.
And just as entitlement programs have bred a generation unable to comprehend what wealth-enhancing production entails, it has given these state devotees an aversion to imperfection. The Great Society dogma can be reduced to the simple declaration that everyone deserves a good-paying job, health care, housing, and nutrient-rich food, regardless of the source. Such a flawless civilization was thought up by aspiring oligarchs imagining themselves divinely qualified to shuffle around societal resources to achieve their most effective and "fair" use. In placing the notion of equality on the highest pedestal, these "entitled" are often the first to demand themselves wealth transfers while being the most unwilling to fall prey to the same theft.
Will brilliantly ties this social corroding mentality to the practice of taking the life of a person afflicted by Down syndrome. He writes:
... Jon was born eight months before Roe v. Wade inaugurated this era of the casual destruction of pre-born babies.
This era has coincided, not just coincidentally, with the full, garish flowering of the baby boomers' vast sense of entitlement, which encompasses an entitlement to exemption from nature's mishaps, and to a perfect baby. So today science enables what the ethos ratifies, the choice of killing children with Down syndrome before birth. That is what happens to 90 percent of those whose parents receive a Down syndrome diagnosis throug prenatal testing.
With the claim to a life unmarked by scarcity, struggle, and the various imperfections of nature in high demand, extending the scope of societal engineering to the sphere of human birth is the next logical step.
In addition to being both an anti-Semite and a pedophile, John Maynard Keynes, whose work popularized government-directed planning, was an endorser of eugenics and the centralized control of the world's population. According to classical liberal historian Ralph Raico:
The state, according to Keynes, will even decide on the optimal level of population. Regarding eugenics, Keynes at times gave the appearance of indecision: "the time may arrive a little later when the community as a whole must pay attention to the innate quality as well as to the mere numbers of its future members."
Shortly before his death, Keynes would call eugenics "the most important and significant branch of sociology." Additionally, he served on the governing council of the Eugenics Society from 1937 to 1944. Needless to say, his fascination with central planning went far beyond the "socialization of investment."
Despite clothing itself in the garb of egalitarianism and tolerance, the progressive movement, which draws much of its influence from Keynes, has a nasty history of fostering the perfect society through government dictum. As Austrian economist Larry White points out in his new book The Clash of Economic Ideas:
Many of the Progressive economists favored alcohol and drug prohibition, and even eugenics (immigration barriers against and sterilization of "inferior races" to prevent "race suicide"), as scientific means to social betterment.
Rather than embrace the diversity of character and ability which man embodies, the world, in the eyes of progressives, is soiled and in dire need of iron-fisted management.
The paradox these confused dictators often run up against is that if man if flawed and incapable of functioning under his own judgment, then what gives a select few, just as flawed, individuals the ability the run a society? How can it possibly be determined what is the proper money supply or amount of employment? Taken further, how can a select number of schemers even begin to know the appropriate population size or best state of mental functionality?
Economist Friedrich Hayek defined these presumptions as the pretense of knowledge which he also named his Nobel acceptance speech after. Hayek closed his speech with perhaps one of the most imperative pieces of advice to be suggested to planners and their ilk:
The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson of humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men's fatal striving to control society - a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals.
Keynes didn't regard authoritarian control as the most adequate method by which to ensure general prosperousness; he deemed it utterly necessary when considering the common man's ineptness at taking care of himself.
Nor is it true that self-interest generally is enlightened; more often individuals acting separately to promote their own ends are too ignorant or too weak to attain even these[.]
For a man who wrote in the preface to the German edition of his General Theory that "the theory of output as a whole, which is what the following book purports to provide, is much more easily adapted to the conditions of a totalitarian state," the idea of a dominant ruling class guiding the masses through their miserable lives must have enchanted Keynes. His championing of counter-cyclical monetary and fiscal policy carried out by the state and its central banking system were extensions of his preference for despotic planning. This is why he considered that resolutions to economic downturns "will involve intellectual and scientific elements which must be above the heads of the vast mass of more or less illiterate voters."
It causes great anguish for leftists to be told that humanity is intrinsically imperfect. No amount of intellect will ever make central planning successful or removed from complete violent oppression. Man has no perfect state. To assert that those diagnosed with Down syndrome are undeserving of life compared to an infant deemed in perfect health is a value judgment reserved for only those with a disgust for the human race.
Thankfully, the luxury afforded to all by market-driven material production, no matter how hampered, allows for even the most handicapped not to be left starved or destitute on the street. It enables those unfortunate enough to be born with lesser ability to live amongst the rest of the populace in relative comfort. And we are all better off, as Will observes:
... the world would be improved by more people with Down syndrome, who are quite nice, as humans go.
Along with eugenics and the pursuit of nonexistent biological perfection, Keynes openly sought "controlling and directing economic forces in the interests of social justice and social stability." His work has influenced a whole array of academics and politicians delusional enough to believe they can direct society toward an unreachable utopia. The inevitable result, as Hayek would also recognize, is serfdom with a class of rulers wielding control over the masses.
And the more unfortunate byproduct of such a wholly controlled society is that lives like Jon Will's may very well never come into being.